The case study for this post's topic, social sustainability, evaluates the world's largest pro-bono design marketplace, The One Plus (1+)


"1+ connects nonprofits with pro bono architecture and design services.  The first and largest pro bono service network within the architecture and design professions, 1+ challenges the design community worldwide to dedicate one percent or more of working hours to pro bono service. 1+ is the flagship program of Public Architecture, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Public Architecture’s mission is to provide the network and knowledge necessary to use design as a tool for social gain."



The design community already struggles with finding sustainable ways to provide services and make money. It's also a highly competitive field, with many professionals able to provide the same services. In a search for nonprofit or pro-bono design services, I did not find many firms. Many firms will aim to be socially sustainable, but information on how this is achieved is lacking. There are not many Architects Without Borders chapters, the San Francisco based Architecture for Humanity recently went bankrupt and is now defunct, and finding published information on projects from either is difficult. What is most worrisome to me is that data and reporting is even more scarce. Finding 1+ is exciting because it is a "design marketplace" that seeks to bridge the gaps between designers and the underserved. I see a significant potential for reporting through this platform, and am excited to see how firms of various sizes, from single proprietorship to large scale are getting involved. As there are not many similar entities to evaluate, please take my critique of 1+ in context: they are doing good and it is a mighty fine start. We need more entities like 1+. The are certainly a part of the solution.


Analysis / Market / Audience

1+ has two target audiences, designers willing to donate their services and non-profits looking for design services. The following design services are currently offered:


interior Design

Landscape Architecture


Urban Design & Planning

Sustainability & More


Social Attributes

The way that 1+ makes the world a better place is simple: it provides a platform for willing designers and searching non-profits to connect. It also recognizes firms who contribute to pro-bono and nonprofit design work. Finally, 1+ promotes socially sustainable and equitable design by creating a dialogue.


Lessons Learned

Is 1% of our time good enough? What would the world, and the profession, look like if we gave 50% of our time?

The key take away from 1+ is that being socially sustainable can be as simple as making connections and fulfilling a need.